- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that his administration will announce on Thursday its long-awaited decision on whether it will approve the final environmental review for the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Dayton declined to say what the decision will be. The decision formally will come from the Department of Natural Resources. On the outskirts of the Governor’s Water Summit on Saturday, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr had reaffirmed his previous statement that he expected to certify the 3,500-page document as “adequate” unless some unexpected new issues emerged.

Approval would let PolyMet Mining Corp. start applying for permits. The original environmental impact statement, which was released in 2009, drew a poor review from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The project was then extensively redesigned to address water quality and other concerns. The draft final version was released in November.

While PolyMet’s supporters tout the hundreds of jobs the project would create, environmental groups have challenged assurances that the minerals can be mined without risking serious damage to water quality downstream of the mine near Babbitt and processing plant near Hoyt Lakes.

On other topics, Dayton also said he was pleased with his water summit, which drew more than 900 people to brainstorm about solutions to the state’s water quality and supply challenges. While farm groups had complained that they felt singled out for criticism, Dayton said he was pleased to hear that the Minnesota Corn Growers Association gave it a more positive assessment Tuesday.

“As a rule, the farmers expressed pleasant surprise at the mood that emphasized respectful collaboration rather than confrontation or placing blame,” the group said in a blog post.

Dayton said that’s what he intended.

The governor also offered a few more ideas Tuesday for his planned Water Action Week in April, which he announced to reporters at the close of the summit. He said he wants to stress to citizens the importance of insisting that local officials take action, and that they get their wells tested or have their community’s drinking water analyzed to make sure their families are protected.

Dayton said he might time the observance to coincide with Earth Day, which is April 22. And he said it might include lesson materials for schools so that students can learn about the quality of their family’s water and where it comes from.

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